“Restoring the Soul After War”: Student Shomriel Sherman Writes of Sharing the Burden and Finding the Sacred

Shomriel Sherman, a current student in Transformative Language Arts, has been studying the intersection between the trauma of war and the trauma of illness as well as ways to work with such pain. This is her report of attending several retreats on veteran/ civilian ways toward “….bridging the gap and taking our first steps toward healing the wounds of war.”

This past May, I attended the Soldier’s Heart “Restoring the Soul After War” Memorial Day retreat at the Rowe Center in Rowe, MA. This retreat was led by Ed Tick, himself a graduate of Goddard with an MA in psychology, and his wife, Kate Dahlstedt. The Soldier’s Heart organization was founded in 2006 with the perspective that what is now referred to as “post traumatic stress disorder” and which has been referred to by many other names over the years is in fact not a pathology but a “sacred soul wound” suffered when the journey from soldier to warrior has not been completed. Soldier’s Heart encourages the full participation of all community members in completing the journey together so that veterans’ experiences can be shared and transformed–and transform us all–in the process.

The motto of Soldier’s Heart is “Caring means sharing the burden”: the burdens of knowing the horrors of war, of personal and collective guilt, and of decision-making with regard to when, where, and by whom battles should be fought. To this end, retreats involve creating trustworthy, ceremonial space in which communal story-telling and grieving can take place. There is also the use of ceremonial practices such as singing, chanting, drumming, and sweat lodges, practices used by many Native peoples with a strong traditional emphasis on warrior homecoming, purification, and reintegration.

The almost 30 of us gathered together on this Memorial Day to honor each other and those whom we’d lost to war along the way, whether in combat or due to suicide or cancer afterwards, truly did enter into altered space over our four days together. People spoke truth in all its complexities and paradoxes; we cried; we laughed; we shared meals and walked and talked together. Our hearts opened enough to hold each others’ pain and anger so that they could be more manageable, and in a small but powerful way we were able to demonstrate to each other our care for each others’ experiences and to bridge the civilian-veteran disconnect that we so often encounter in our society today.

The second weekend in June I attended an all-women’s veteran/civilian retreat at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. This was also led by Kate Dahlstedt and a co-facilitator, and it was a much smaller group, with only 11 of us. We discussed the particularities of women’s experiences of war, both during and post-service and as mothers and/or partners of service-members, acknowledging and honoring both the warrior and the woman. The intimate gathering of women got very close during our four days together, writing, telling stories, singing, dancing, creating a fire of release together, and making collages to represent who we are and where we are headed. Once again, the opportunity was provided for civilians and veterans to come together in a safe, bounded space in which we could share and truly hear one another, bridging the gap and taking our first steps toward healing the wounds of war.

Posted in Cultural & Cross-Cultural Studies, Transformative Language Arts, Transforming Trauma | Tagged | Leave a comment

Featured Faculty: Francis X. Charet

Francis X. Charet, who has taught in BA and MA programs at the college for close to two decades, writes of how he got here in his faculty profile:

Like many of my generation, I experienced the shift from an understanding of life based on traditional values to one more directly related to personal experience. This shift led me on a number of outer and inner journeys, from Western spirituality and philosophy to ashrams in India, travels in the Middle East and Europe, teaching, and, ultimately, Goddard.

Francis explains his teaching at Goddard as collaborating with students on their scholarly journeys. He says,

As faculty we all have our styles of teaching and working with students and this contributes to our being a well rounded learning community. My own approach tends to focus in on what the students’ interests are and cultivating the necessary skills to undertake the learning that they hope to accomplish. While there is necessarily a personal dimension to the work we do with students, I see my primary role as an academic advisor who responsibility it is to support students in their scholarly work. This involves developing the tools of scholarship such as critical thinking and writing, drawing on adequate resources, and making an ongoing commitment to independent and collaborative learning.

Francis, who is founder of the Consciousness Studies concentration in GGI, specializes in Eastern and Western Religions and Philosophy as well as a wide spectrum in Psychology, Consciousness Studies, Contempory Spirituality, Asian Studies, and Death and Dying Studies. Listen to Francis talk about the organic process of developing Consciousness Studies at Goddard below.

Posted in Consciousness Studies/Transpersonal Psychology, Faculty, Spirituality & Religion | Tagged | Leave a comment

Queering Sexual Violence — New Book by Jennye Patterson

12144680_10206205188983346_6840334781893402731_nJennifer Patterson is a poet/writer, grief worker, creative and herbalist who uses words, threads and plants to explore queer survivorhood, the body and healing. She is the editor of the forthcoming anthology Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement (Magnus/ Riverdale Ave Books, 2016), facilitates writing workshops and has had writing published in OCHO: A Journal of Queer Arts, the Outrider Review, HandJob and on The Feminist Wire. Jennifer is also finishing a graduate program at Goddard College focusing on trauma, queer communities, healing, craft, loss, pleasure, pain and creative non-fiction. You can find more here. 

Since the book came out, it’s garnered a long list of powerful reviews and has been the top selling book on Amazon in the genre of queer non-fiction. “Queering Sexual Violence is the much-needed book that has been simmering within the “violence against women” movement for decades,” wrote Minal Hajratwala, author & editor of Out! Stories from the New Queer India.

In the middle of her book tour and while finishing her thesis, Jennye was kind enough to answer these questions about Queering Sexual Violence, published by Riverdale Ave Books:

What propelled you to write this book?

  • I identify as queer and am a survivor of multiple forms of violence. In my mid-late 20’s, I decided to start working in anti-violence work. I did fundraising for small organizations, trained and offered support as a rape crisis counselor and was a facilitator and organizer in an NYC organizing effort. And I was quickly struck by how these anti-violence spaces weren’t connected to larger social justice movements like queer & trans liberation, racial justice, disability justice, healing justice, prison abolition and so much more which felt a bit shocking to me. I felt super frustrated with how little space there was for LGB, queer, transgender and gender non-conforming people and how little understanding there was for our unique and frequent experiences with violence. So I decided to leave these spaces to try to create something that brought in the voices and work of people I knew were already doing this connective work. I love books and have long been a writer so I decided that creating something that people could hold and pass on to other people was the way to go.

How did you find so many contributors of such diverse backgrounds?

  • My process for collecting work was manifold. I put out a call for submissions in late winter 2010 and it quickly traveled through a wide spectrum of internet spaces– on Facebook and Tumblr and anti-violence organizations, feminist & womanist websites and social justice groups all shared it. I reached out to my immediate friends and networks. And I also reached out personally to queer and trans people that I knew were already doing this work in different capacities, both personally and professionally. But I’d say 3/4 of what is in the anthology came to me fairly organically. I began the book a little over 6 years ago and so it was also just a really long process so when people needed more time to put something together or if they were coming up against blocks in being able to write the hard stuff, I was able to offer more time to finish.

Why is a book like this so important now?

  • Back when I started this anthology I was hard pressed to find writing about queer 10454551_10203100509088289_530023386842244093_npeople and sexual violence. There was an amazing zine turned book called The Revolution Starts at Home and there were a few pieces of writing here and there, including a piece by Liz Latty (also a Goddard graduate!) that I really appreciated but it was super limited. While today, 6 years later, there is a bit more writing, research and workshops about and for queer people and sexual violence, the way I see it, mainstream anti-violence organizations are only just starting to include LGBTQ people in their work and are only just starting to offer services more geared to LGBTQ people. You can see the lack of intention to include LGBTQ people in how so many survivor support groups are still geared towards cisgender women only or how gendered language is when mainstream anti-violence organizations talk about sexual violence or how gendered research is when it doesn’t intentionally include people who are trans and gender non-conforming. And from the extremely high rates of murder of trans women of color to interpersonal violence in queer relationships to the everyday violence LGBTQ experience just walking down the street, we just can’t afford to not make larger connections around what sexual violence is, who experiences it and who is allowed to access healing.
Posted in Creative Non-Fiction, Embodiment Studies & Body Image, Queer Studies, Sexuality & Erotic Studies, Transforming Trauma | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Jeremy D. Johnson: A Place Where Education, Knowledge, Art, the Transpersonal Converge

10461397_10101012183837635_2847390387611714990_nI came to Goddard through an alumni who was in his last year of the Individualized M.A. program in Consciousness Studies. We were good friends and discovered each other online—both of us were active “vloggers” or YouTube bloggers circa 2008-9. I was excited to learn about the IMA offering and interested in Francis X. Charet’s background in depth psychology. I was also really excited to discover a program that emphasized “self-directed learning” and curriculum developed around the needs of individual students.

All this sounded very academically engaging to me—a lot like how doctoral programs are—so I took a leap and went for it. I ended up doing most of my research on the intersection of media studies, transpersonal theory, depth psychology and cultural studies. I wanted to understand the impact and role digital media and the internet have on social transformation, because I believed—and still do—we’re living in truly, radically transformative times. Different communities and scholars are possessed by new ways of, to borrow from Goddard’s line, “doing-being-knowing” in the world; new blockchain technologies, new peer-to-peer philosophies, a surge diverse and empowered identities, and a rediscovered sense of stewardship with the planet’s ecosystem are all part of this emergent thought. We’re awakening to all this, and it’s tremendous, and there are so many ways to approach this unnameable planetary preponderance. Consciousness Studies, as a field, is multifaceted enough to begin to wrestle with these questions. For my part, I was drawn to the question of how digital networks and media studies viewed from transpersonal and psychological methodologies could inform us. I learned a lot, and I’m still learning.

I’ve been working with a few colleagues on an online, collaborative platform called Theory of Everybody. It’s an experiment in enacting a lot of the ideas I’ve been studying for the past eight years or so in that it will be cooperatively owned, trying organization models that aren’t so bureaucratic. So far, we’ve launched an online book club, #LITGEEKS, a discussion platform, Infinite Conversations, a podcast network by the same name, and a literary consciousness journal called Metapsychosis. They’re all connected through the discussion forum, and we hope as more people come aboard they’ll launch their own projects. The journal’s subtitle is “consciousness, culture, and planetary thought.” The whole idea behind it is to bring together,—similar to my experience with Goddard’s pedagogical approach—rigorous scholarship with artistic expression. We want to build a place where the transpersonal and spiritual have a place alongside the academic, and the pop cultural. A place where we can look at, reflect, and creatively respond to global issues like the economic crisis or the whole notion of living-and-dying in the Anthropocene, the age of immense, possibly irreversible climate change. So, the journal is inviting artists, scholars, poets, of all kinds to submit their material. Especially Goddard students and Faculty. Right now, with #LITGEEKS, we’ve just finished up reading The Saddlebag by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, a British-Persian novelist. It’s a wonderfully written story about 9 travelers on the road to Mecca and Medina, and it explores themes like mysticism, nature, and spiritual transformation. Next up we’ll likely be exploring an eclectic array of authors—Philip K. Dick, Murakami, Delany, perhaps others. If Goddard students have time between packet work, they’re welcome to join in!

I’ve taken from my Goddard education this idea that you have to take knowledge with you out into the world. You can build your life with the foundations of your studies, and your studies are complicit, implicit with your life, your art. That’s why I’m involved in projects like Theory of Everybody, or previously, with Reality Sandwich magazine. I want to create spaces where education, knowledge, art, even the edges of the “weird”, the transpersonal, converge upon each other. It invites participation from the whole, infinite, mysterious person. I believe that publishing, writing, and acting from this space changes culture. At least the culture within arm’s length, but that’s where transformation starts.

More on Jeremy Johnson here.

Posted in Arts-Based Inquiry, Community Building, Consciousness Studies/Transpersonal Psychology, Cultural & Cross-Cultural Studies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Featured Faculty: Sarah Van Hoy, Medical Anthropologist, Mental Health Counselor, Acupuncturist and Herbalist,

10321019_10152393696596235_5634540549277902956_oSarah Van Hoy, a long-time faculty member specializing in Health Arts and Sciences but equally at home in SIS and IMA, says her work embraces “languages about the body and languages from the body and the possibilities and impossibilities of translating between, meaning, power and the poetics of bodies.”

The HAS program, she explains, “is the place you go if you want to give voice to what is about to exist, what is on the edge of existing, what you want to call into being.” She elaborates:

Most HAS students come as practitioners in some phase of their practice (just starting out or many decades in) and they come to become scholars of that practice, to reflect on what they know and do and to inquire into cultures of health and healing.  Often, HAS students are teachers in their field, though they may not know this when they apply. Teaching is how and why we cultivate our unique voice in our field.  HAS students come to cultivate their voice, their unique message, the expertise that comes from the intersection of their training and their life experiences.  This is very important in the economy of health practice these days, because simply having a license or a certification does not make you visible, or especially interesting.  It is the depth and clarity of your voice and your message that makes you visible in the world of health.

Toward that end, she’s worked with students on studies such as men’s sexual health and health education from a feminist perspective; teaching obstetricians about somatic safety, trauma, and birthing women; herbal medicine for psychiatric survivors; and the implications of the gut microbiome as well many other areas of study.

She brings to Goddard her experience as a medical anthropologist, licensed mental health counselor, licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, explaining:

Teaching at Goddard is like being invited to steep in the most delicious and rich learning environment, where people bring their full selves – passions, longings, discomforts, intellect, body, creativity – to their studies. It is impossible not to be transformed by participation in such a living community, a collective, evolving “ body-mind.”

Watch this video of Sarah talking about new conversations in health, and see her Goddard profile here.

Posted in Anthropology, Child & Human Development, Coaching, Community Building, Embodiment Studies & Body Image, Goddard at large, Health Arts and Sciences, Herbalism, Mental Health, Nursing | Leave a comment

Sex and Drugs as Healing and Transformation with Britta Love

Britta (center) with Goddard students Clay River (left) and Jennye Patterson (right) at Britta's graduating student presentation in February, 2016 at Goddard

Britta (center) with Goddard students Clay River (left) and Jennye Patterson (right) at Britta’s graduating student presentation in February, 2016 at Goddard

“How Sex and Drugs Saved My Life (and Could Save the World),” a new article by Britta Love, a recent graduate in the Consciousness Studies concentration of the Individualized MA program, is based on the work of her thesis. Published on Alternet.org, Love writes about her own experience in finding wholeness and direction, concluding that:

It will take the rapid opening of humanity’s collective sensory gating channels, the correction of this fundamentally flawed paradigm, to change this course. Through the process of embracing the shadow, of re-associating and reconnecting, of finding healing and spiritual awareness, we can collectively shift away from the destructive path we are on. It is time to re-sacralize nature and the cosmos, to find our way back to reconnection and reintegration, to an understanding of the interconnectivity and intelligence of all life, before it’s too late. I believe the careful and intentional use of sex and psychedelics is our best hope for quickly catalyzing that change.

Read the whole article here, and check out several videos with Britta here, discussing her journey into embodiment studies and consciousness studies at Goddard.

Britta Love is a writer and activist who is passionate about sex and drugs, believing that sexual freedom and cognitive liberty are fundamental human rights. Britta is based in Brooklyn, NY where she gives monthly talks at the Tarot Society Gallery and Reading Room, writes a blog on sex, drugs and consciousness (www.TheDailyTransmission.com) and advocates for the ibogaine movement and the Sex Worker’s Outreach Project.

Posted in Consciousness Studies/Transpersonal Psychology, Embodiment Studies & Body Image, Sexuality & Erotic Studies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ruth Farmer on Writing, Dancing, Teaching, Farmer and More

Karla Haas-Moskowitz (left) and Ruth Farmer

Karla Haas-Moskowitz (left) and Ruth Farmer

In a recent radio show interview on Karla Haas-Moskowitz’s show, “Ethereal: The Possibilities of a Floating Particle of Dust,” Ruth Farmer talked about being a writer, dancing, teacher, and farmer and more. Karla, who is faculty in the Education program and Goddard Graduate Institute, also interviews Gariot Louima, dean of enrollment and external affairs at Goddard, and other faculty and students. Listen in here.

Posted in Creative Non-Fiction, Dance, Farming | Tagged , | 1 Comment